Elementary (CBS): A Closer Look At Three Pivotal Moments From “M”

There will be no new Elementary tonight, a fact that I’m sure saddens all of you as much as it saddens me, but coming off of “M,” the series’ best episode to date, we could all use a few extra days to process the episode’s climactic events before jumping back into the action.

“M” could represent a turning point for Elementary, moving it from being an above average procedural to one of the best dramas on network television. Aside from being an excellent showpiece for Jonny Lee Miller (I strongly suspect I’ll be pulling for him come Emmy season), “M” deepened Sherlock and Watson’s relationship, fleshed out Sherlock’s backstory in a meaningful way and set up an ongoing storyline that has the potential to fuel the series for years to come. Not too shabby for a single hour of television.

While the episode was littered with interesting moments, from the introduction of Sherlock’s young informant to Watson’s heartfelt discussion with her therapist, there were three big moments that tangibly propelled the series forward and reshaped the parameters of the kind of storytelling we can expect from Elementary.

Watson Chooses To Stay
 

Back in December, I speculated that Watson would choose to stay because “the work she does with Sherlock gives her a purpose.” Her love of his work has certainly been discussed numerous times since the series returned from its short winter break, but ultimately Watson’s reason for staying was far more complex than I anticipated it would be. In “M,” Watson was confronted with the full extent of Sherlock’s emotional damage and what she saw scared her. A man who believes his sober companion’s work is valuable because it prepared him to be clear-headed enough to exact vengeance is clearly not a man ready to be left on his own.

Watson chooses to stay without financial compensation or support from Sherlock’s father because she realizes she is the only person Sherlock has. We are now dealing with two people who want to be a part of each other’s lives, rather than have to be. Of course, Watson is keeping up the pretense that she still works for Sherlock’s father, but the lie is a fragile thing as Sherlock tends to see through lies rather quickly. The moment that Watson definitively decided to change course and stay with Sherlock, the series made a clean break from the professional element of their relationship. To paraphrase a line from Casablanca, this looks like the beginning of a beautiful and emotionally messy friendship…

Sherlock Tortures M
 

Elementary‘s Sherlock has always been more emotional than other versions of the super sleuth. He doesn’t always deduce; he understands emotional motives as well as rational ones, and in some ways this makes him a stronger detective. As a man, he’s guarded, but not incapable of showing his rage or affection. However, knowing that did not prepare me for the moment when Sherlock bluntly informed Watson that he had “no intention of capturing M” and instead planned to capture, torture and murder him.

Sherlock is supposed to be the “good guy,” but his actions in “M” were chilling. The depth of his pain over Irene’s murder suddenly swung into sharp focus. Sherlock, our hero, is still essentially broken and capable of committing truly terrifying acts. Yes, M is a truly despicable human being (albeit one played with unnerving style by Vinnie Jones) for so callously and brutally taking lives, and in exchange for money no less, but to see Sherlock take on the role of judge, jury and executioner without flinching added a new and frightening layer of emotional complexity to the character. The question becomes where does Sherlock go from here? And will Watson’s influence be enough to stop him when he comes face to face with Irene’s real killer?

M Is Not Moriarty
 

“Moriarty said you’re obsessed with puzzles. Well, he’s the best puzzle you’ll ever come across. If you kill me now, you’ll be killing the best clue you ever had.”

The reveal that the “M” we were dealing with in the form of Jones wasn’t the infamous Moriarty wasn’t surprising. His use of brute force and football obsession didn’t fit with the classic image of Moriarty as a deranged intellectual. However, seeing Sherlock realize there was some unknown madman out there toying with his life was a goosebump-inducing moment. Just like in the scene where Joan decided to stay with Sherlock, there was a sense that we were witnessing the beginning of something special.

In one scene, Elementary dove head first into the murky waters of the Holmes-mythos, and at the same time signaled that it would no longer be a pure procedural with tiny scraps of serialization thrown in for good measure. The specter of Moriarty won’t be leaving anytime soon, and neither will Sherlock’s thirst for revenge against the man who took the life of the woman he loved (allegedly– yes, I’m sticking with the Irene’s not dead theory for the time being). Elementary will still tell episodic stories, of course, but the overarching plot will always be simmering just below the surface– and if this episode is any indication, that can only mean good things for the series.

 

What did you guys think of “M”? Are there any other moments that you feel will be significant as the season progresses? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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About The Author

Sabienna is a freelance writer, pop culture junkie and unabashed fangirl. She blames an early exposure to The X-Files and the Must See TV era of NBC for her twin life-long loves of sci-fi and sitcoms. She's not sure where her all-consuming love for all things British came from, but it led her to Doctor Who so she doesn't complain.

  • Joan Roseman

    Yes, but your analysis makes clearer one disturbing question: except for a marked reduction in the level of humor how, fundamentally, is Elementary now different from :The Mentalist? They both solve cases as consultants, they each have a diabolical nemesis and they each have a stated goal of killing, not bring to justice, their object of obsession.

    • Sabienna B.

      That is a really good point and honestly, I’m not sure. I’m not familiar enough with The Mentalist to compare the two in a meaningful way, but my hope is that going forward, Elementary will distinguish itself by ultimately revealing that Irene is in some way working with or for Moriarty (although then the series risks further comparisons to BBC’s Sherlock and even the recent RDJ films).

      Still, I would prefer that to seeing Sherlock spend the rest of the series pursing Moriarty simply for revenge, since that seems to be the go-to plot device for procedurals (even on a series as benign as Monk). I have faith in the writers at the moment because the series has thus far earned my trust, but I could be singing a different tune by the end of the season, it all depends on where they take Joan and Sherlock next.

    • http://www.facebook.com/corey.hufstetler Corey Hufstetler

      I love both these shows I’m so glad this was brought up! To me generally the same in concept but the difference lies in not only Holmes and James character differences but plot differences to me janes is a brazen genius and unorthodox in his methods however Sherlock shows emotion, is somewhat an outcast the ”nerd” figure working logically and methodically the mentalist is procedural with the underlying motif of red John and elementary has just developed its first major antagonist at this point this show could go anywhere From here but every step in this direction diversifies it more

  • ptjackson

    Wow – thanks for giving me some interesting things to think about – I totally agree with you, BTW…

    And, my husband informed me that the murderer for hire is also the name of a character from the mythos – a man who works for Moriarity. So, he is enjoying seeing these parts being brought into the series, even if they are not the same as the books!

    • Sabienna B.

      Thanks, PT!

      That’s very cool! I didn’t realize “M” was named after an original character. I’m going to have to tackle the original canon soon, so that I can catch all of the Easter eggs the writers are slipping into the series.